This paper presents a forthcoming online catalogue of Chinese painting and calligraphy in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). This online scholarly catalogue is the result of five years of planning, research, and experimentation under the auspice of the J. Paul Getty Foundation. This proposal summarizes the processes by which SAM selected a modest and largely unpublished collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy, and thought through the needs and functionalities of the catalogue. This catalogue will present an innovative way for studying and presenting classical Chinese painting and calligraphy.

During the course of the project, SAM’s collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy grew substantially, adding significant works of the Ming and Qing dynasties as well as from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Their importance led to the conclusion that the new acquisitions should be constantly added in the catalogue. Therefore, the active acquisition program led to a fundamental change in our expectation of the function of the online ‘catalogue,’ namely that it should be a portal of new scholarship and new acquisitions.

This online catalogue features thoughtful and provocative essays about major works by renowned professors and curators in the United States and Asia, with high-resolution, zoom-able images of the works of art, and thorough documentation—including transcriptions and translations of inscriptions and colophons, and seals that are transcribed, identified, and located. Readers are encouraged to post comments about the works of art and the accompanying essays, as well as to formulate answers to questions that we put forward under the section “Questions for Thought.”

By the time of the conference, the catalogue will have had a three-month trial period, and we will be able to report on its reception by the scholarly community. We expect to address issues of maintenance and sustainability of the online catalogue with colleagues.


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